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Ray Bradbury

It's almost a month now since we heard the sad news that Ray Bradbury had died. I wrote the following at the time, but couldn't bring myself to post it. Time has lent a little perspective and I feel okay about doing so now. 

Before that, however, I would like to say that I was disappointed in the days after the announcement by how many people took cheap shots at how reactionary he had become in his dotage, as if that was all that mattered and that his whole life and all his works had simply been in preparation for a few years of being a grumpy old git. To these small people I say, "Fie upon you." Also, "Fuck you." Gittishness in advanced years is hardly extraordinary, and says far more about those that harped on about it to the exclusion of his work than it does about Bradbury. I'm not apologising for the man, but, really, what vile little back-biting creatures there are out there. 

Now I've taken that opportunity to vent my bile, here's what I wrote at the time:
Perhaps I'm not in the right frame of mind to be writing this. It's less than an hour since I heard that Ray Bradbury had died, and I know  I'm more upset about it than perhaps I should be. I never met him, we never shared a pint, he isn't family. But, he was always there. Almost my whole life, he has always been there. 

When my first book was published, my editor told me that she knew Bradbury's agent; would I like a copy sent to him? Yes, I most certainly did. Would I like to include a covering letter? Yes, that would be nice. So I wrote one that said how much of an influence he had been, right from reading "The Foghorn" as a child, then The Illustrated Man in a library copy.

My sister had borrowed it and it was due back the next day, but she wouldn't have a chance to drop it off herself. I agreed to do so. I flicked through it that evening and discovered it was a collection of short stories connected by a wrapper story. I hadn't seen that done before and was intrigued. I read a little of it out of interest. Then a little more, and then I couldn't stop. It was in the adult collection, and my tickets only let me take out books from the children's section so I couldn't take it out myself; if I was going to read it, I had to read it all before the morning. I did, past midnight. I'd never read anything like it before. "The Foghorn" hadn't got its claws into me because I was of an age where a story with a monster had better show the bloody monster up close and in centre stage. "The Foghorn" didn't, and I had dismissed it on purely that shallow basis. By the time of reading The Illustrated Man a year or so later, however, my reading needs had become a little more sophisticated and little less obvious, and I sank deep into Bradbury's famously lush prose and the dark paths of his imagination. 

I began to borrow my mother's library tickets on a regular basis. I needed to read more of this stuff. The October CountryThe Golden Apples of the SunDandelion WineThe Silver Locusts. And, as these were the glorious days when you could buy a brand spanking paperback for 25p (which wasn't very much even then) I bought them, as well. My book shelf filled with these titles and others -- The Small AssassinThe Halloween Tree, Fahrenheit 451Something Wicked This Way Comes. I stayed up late to watch the film versions of The Illustrated Man and Fahrenheit 451 and was disappointed the latter didn't feature the novel's mechanical hound with its hypodermic fangs filled with a lethal doses of morphine. 

I told him all this (although not the bit about the hound), trying to sound like a sensible mature fellow author and not a frothing fanboy, and failing miserably in that endeavour. 

He wrote back. He told me that he regretted that his eyesight was very bad and that he had to have things read to him these days, but he'd listened to a good chunk and had liked it a lot. 

Necromancer hasn't had many bad reviews, I'm relieved to say, but when one comes up I just think, "Well, Ray Bradbury liked it," and then the bad review doesn't sting quite so badly.

Yes, I am very aware that he may just have said he did to be polite. Shut up. 

Grief is, in essence, usually selfish, I think. I don't mean that in a pejorative way. Somebody has gone and is never coming back, and you feel that absence keenly. It hits you in your "self," and to that extent, it is selfish. We are built of our experiences, and a death can seem to turn the foundations of the never-ending now to sand. He was old, and unwell, and may well have been ready to say goodbye to the world. It will be a while yet before I can say goodbye to him.


( 3 comments — Leave a comment )
3rd Aug, 2012 13:17 (UTC)
Well done.
3rd Aug, 2012 17:45 (UTC)
A fine tribute.
I wonder how much of him being tagged a "reactionary" is due to his dust-up with Michael Moore?
4th Aug, 2012 17:34 (UTC)
Ray Bradbury
I encountered Mr. Bradbury first via media; I was obsessed with the Twilight Zone at an early age (accounts for much) and then through his books. That I got to meet him in 2007 at San Diego Comic Con was a privelege and a blessing even at the time; now doubly so. And maybe he got "grumpy" with some people but not with me - he was pleasant, friendly, outgoing, and enjoying being the center of attention. And if the word "reactionary" was substituted with "revolutionary" I would agree - his stories challenged the imagination in ways that it hadn't been challenged before.

Edited at 2012-08-04 17:39 (UTC)
( 3 comments — Leave a comment )


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Jonathan L Howard

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